By Ishita B Saha: Whenever a new restaurant is founded by an Emirati, the most obvious assumption is that it’s going to serve Emirati food, and with obvious reasons. In a city that’s burgeoning with new restaurants, there still aren’t enough to satiate the market. However, that doesn’t distract or take away the glory from Mitts & Trays founded by Amna Al Hashemi, the UAE’s ﬁrst female Emirati Chef Patron. Mitts & Trays is an elegant all-day dining that has recently opened in City Walk 2, a home grown brand that aims to provide wholesome, homecooked meals “served from the heart”. As we chat more to the gracious Amna, and taste her food, we discover that the menu is really been inspired by her memories and the food is cooked like it would be at home – with love, served with love too! Braised Short Ribs, Chicken Madras Curry or Paella de Valencia, Wagyu Beef Lollipops, Grilled Eggplant or the Mitts & Trays version of Southern Style Chicken Sliders – each dish has a story to tell, and a personal memory to recollect.
The decor of Mitts & Trays feels like an extension of the living room – book shelves containing cookbooks, large armchairs, communal tables, open kitchen, indoor terrace within the mall area – each space flows into the other effortlessly and unobstrusively. Amna says: “This is how you will find my home to be – very modern, minimalistic with clean lines and lot’s of white.”
Amna’s passion lies in baking and that has been the foundation stone of this “oven to table, kitchen to living room experience”. She’s charmingly honest when she delcares that she’s tried doing many things in the past but she has always felt so restless and bored that she was prompted to change her path. Until one day, she found baking. Or rather, baking found her. She hasn’t looked back ever since. And yes, Mitts & Trays found its name since the beginning!
Amna hearts out:
“This was the last space in City Walk 2 to have been allocated and I couldn’t believe that this was going to be my space. We designed everything ourselves – starting from how the tables would look to how the lights should look. Now we serve selected main dishes along with bespoke cakes and pastries. But when I started, it was only pastries and everything related to baking.
I never imagined that I will one day have a restaurant of my own. I am a person who get’s bored very easily and although I have studied Graphic Design in college and worked in the same field, and other PR and media related services for five years and I left everything when I had my third baby as I was finding it very difficult to cope up. My husband and family was very supportive but I soon wanted to do something of my own. I started exploring a lot of things – I tried Marketing, Fashion, Makeup etc. I was also never interested in going into the kitchen to cook. Yes, I used to give my recipes for what was cooking at home but that’s about it. The concept of cooking wasn’t there for me, although my sisters and others in the family are really good cooks. But when I tasted their cakes and pastries, I felt – yes, I could do it too and took it up as a challenge. And that’s how it all started. I started making cookies and pastries and with every single dish that I baked, I felt a sense of great achievement. Specially when everyone in the family – my husband, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law and then gradually, my friends started liking whatever I baked. This pushed me further and I started baking complicated cakes and pastries – this lasted for about a year, and guess what? I didn’t get bored and I was very happy. That’s when I realised that there was more to my love for baking than it being just a temporary fad.
People started ordering cookies from me and I just opened an Instagram account (yes, you guessed the handle right – @ mittsandtrays) and offered only three kinds of cookies. I realised that the cookies lacked consistency – sometimes they would be chewy and sometimes more gooey. I wanted to seriously study on this and my husband encouraged me to take the leap although I had a five month old baby at that time! I enrolled myself for the year-long Professional Diploma course at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai, studying over the weekends juggling family and studies
And I didn’t get bored!!!”
We had lunch with Amna over her favourite dishes from the menu. She asks us “Are you guys hungry? As the food arrived at the table, we couldn’t help but notice the generous portion sizes and the divine taste – our Braised Short Ribs have been slow cooked and the Wagyu ribeye steak has been grilled to perfection. Amna laments that she has overheard a diner saying that there isn’t anything unique about the menu and it’s too compact. We beg to differ because every dish that has gone into the menu has some emotional association. For example, the mildly spiced Madras Chicken Curry, the coastal style curry served with steamed basmati rice that she has grown up eating at her home, being a regular dish cooked by her family cook or the Paella De Valencia cooked with Omani Lobster, that she has tasted in her childhood which has inspired her to travel all the way to Spain!
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